Const. Jolene Garland is with the RCMP’s traffic services west division at the Deer Lake Detachment.
She said the problem area tends to be on the divided section of highway between Corner Brook and Steady Brook.
“It seems to be isolated around the Steady Brook area, motorists coming to and from between Corner Brook and Steady Brook,” said Garland.
“We’ve got motorists going both ways, eastbound in the westbound land, westbound in the eastbound lane.”
And she said it’s not a problem that can be isolated to one specific on-ramp with incidents being reported at Massey Drive, on the Lewin Parkway, at the Riverside Drive exit and in Steady Brook.
Garland said in 2010 the RCMP recorded 12 incidents of wrong-way drivers on the highway, in 2011 that number climbed to 14 and so far this year there have been nine.
In most cases the driver is already gone by the time the police get to a reported location. Garland said either they correct themselves or they have departed the highway.
She has spent some time studying the issue and said there’s really “no rhyme nor reason” for why, when or where the incidents are occurring.
“It happens in the middle of the day with perfect lighting. It happens in the nighttime.”
She said the drivers involved may be elderly or they may not be from the area and not used to driving on a highway, much less a divided highway. She also said there could be some element of distraction and cellphone use has to factor in.
Garland said signage in the area is consistent with what’s found across Atlantic Canada and seems to work fine in other areas.
“But for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to be enough here.”
Garland said the RCMP wants to make people aware of the issue and to educate them to be more aware when they are entering the highway that they are doing it in a proper fashion.
She’s been working with the Department of Transportation and Works on the issue, “brainstorming” on ideas that could be put in place to warn people they are going the wrong way.
In an emailed statement, the Department of Transportation said some options that are being looked at as possible additional means of alerting drivers of the flow of traffic in that area include, rumble strips, additional signage and painted messages on the asphalt.
The department is also looking at measures put in place in other jurisdictions.
“Our evaluation of additional options and ongoing dialogue with police enforcement will help the department determine what, if any, additional measures could be added to benefit drivers,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, Garland said with the rising number of wrong-way drivers it has been lucky that there have been no serious incidents.
However, she said the likelihood of something like a 2006 double-fatality involving an elderly couple travelling the wrong way in the eastbound lane near Riverside Drive is pretty good.
“If you’re doing 100 k/h and the other person is doing 100 k/h heading towards each other that’s a rate of 200 km/h and if you hit head on at 200 km/h it’s gonne be a serious incident.”